Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA programs maximize health, elevate mood for seniors

i May 18th 2017

By Mary Therese Biebel, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — If anybody thinks the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA is just a place for children to take swimming lessons, think again.

“This gets me out of the habit of lying in bed,” said 70-year-old Jan Lohmann, from Harveys Lake, who takes an EnhanceFitness class at the Y to manage her arthritis and build muscle mass.

“You know, I’m not one to come and do the machines,” said Denyse Duaime, 64, of Kingston, who recently completed the LIVESTRONG program for cancer survivors. “But this has given me more energy — and I’m improving my posture.”

“It’s nice to have this connection,” said Karen Rodella, of Wilkes-Barre, another LIVESTRONG alumna who has moved on to the EnhanceFitness program at the YMCA. “You can go at your own pace, and there’s no criticism.”

Shadia Lahlou, senior director of chronic disease prevention at the YMCA, and Linda Reilly, community health director, are delighted that these participants are reaping benefits from YMCA programs, and they want to spread the word so more people will learn about ways the YMCA can help them maximize their health.

The LIVESTRONG program, for example, which is offered at 250 YMCAs across the country, will start a new 12-week session in Wilkes-Barre next week. The free program is designed for cancer survivors, teaches traditional exercises that you can use at your own pace and gives individual attention to help participants work toward their personal goals.

“It works,” Reilly said. “LIVESTRONG did a study with Yale (University) and it showed they had emotional support, physical and social benefits, diminished levels of fatigue and overall improved quality of life.”

Anyone interested in the LIVESTRONG program should call Reilly at 570-970-5022.

What do you do when you’re finished with a LIVESTRONG program? Folks at the YMCA recommend the EnhanceFitness program, which Duaime cheerfully describes as “aerobics for seniors” because it “doesn’t have steps.”

EnhanceFitness, which is supported regionally by a grant from the Highmark Foundation, is designed to help participants gain strength, flexibility and balance. Among the benefits the YMCA cites for EnhanceFitness, it’s the kind of exercise that “may reduce age-related functional decline by as much as 32 percent” and “has been shown to reduce the incidence of disability by 43 percent over 18 months in older adults who suffer from arthritis.”

The next EnhanceFitness class at the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA is scheduled to start in September.

Another wellness component of the YMCA is its diabetes prevention program, set to begin in late July or early August.

That program is designed to help adults who are at significant risk for diabetes. Risk factors include being overweight; having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes; being a sedentary person between ages 45 and 65; simply being 65 or older; and being a woman who gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.

To find out if you qualify for the diabetes prevention program, call Lahlou at 570-970-5052.

Whatever kind of program you might be thinking about signing up for at the YMCA, participants urge you to give it a try.

“It’s a great mood elevator,” Rodella said.

And, Audrey Brozena, 69, of Wyoming added, “you’ll meet such lovely, lovely people.”